by Buz Sawyer, volunteer, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
When you visit Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden you are probably here to see what is in bloom or see one the many exhibits. I’ll bet that seeing bluebirds is low on your priority list. So you might be surprised to learn that we have a Bluebird Trail in the garden. In all there are 14 bluebird boxes located mostly along the perimeter of the Garden maintained by volunteers just for the bluebirds.
Bluebirds add a lot to a garden. Unfortunately their success in nesting is not always good. Since house sparrows were introduced to this country from Europe back in the 19th century and our human population has increased significantly there has been enormous competition for habitat and nesting cavities. We humans like things tidy so we rid our landscapes of dead or diseased trees which may have potential cavities for nesting. The aggressive house sparrows along with our native wrens and chickadees often get to the nest sites before the bluebirds or drive them away. The result has been a decrease in bluebird numbers. Thankfully, the work of the North American Bluebird Society and Virginia Bluebird Society and others has helped. The beauty of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden does not leave room for many trees with nesting cavities. Maintaining a bluebird trail is one way we can help the birds and be responsible stewards of our environment. Good gardeners usually are.
You know that bluebirds live in Virginia year round, but they don’t nest in the winter. With the normal seasonal weather changes, the birds begin to scout for possible nest sites, making February a good month to get everything ready for potential nesting in March and April. Earlier this month we did some needed trail maintenance here at the Garden. All our existing 10 boxes were inspected, cleaned, and repaired as needed. We also installed 4 new nest boxes along the woodland edge bordering Lakeside Avenue, Hilliard Road and parking lot C. The pictures show Garden volunteer Linda Chaney and I in the process of installing the new boxes. In the meadow, along the slope next to the Conservatory, we moved one box to give better spacing between boxes. How great it would be to have all our bluebird accommodations filled with bluebirds! Be on the lookout for the birds in the garden on your next visit. That might be a sign that we will have nesters this year. I’ll keep you posted on progress.